Malaysia joins resurgence of H5N1 avian flu

Aug 19, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – H5N1 avian influenza has today been confirmed in a privately owned flock of chickens in northern Malaysia near the Thai border. The country joins three others, Vietnam, China, and Indonesia, in which the disease has resurfaced in recent weeks following the widespread outbreaks across Asia earlier in the year.

Secretary-General Abi Musa Asa'ari Mohamed Nor of the Malaysian Health Ministry made the announcement at a press conference, according to a Xinhaunet story. The H5 virus was identified yesterday in two birds near the village of Baru Pasir Pekan, and further testing confirmed it as H5N1, the subtype that can infect humans and has caused 27 deaths in Asia this year.

The Malaysian government yesterday immediately quarantined a 6-mile area around the farm and halted exports of poultry and poultry products. All of the birds in the village, reported as about 300 by Reuters, are to be killed today as a precautionary control measure, and all movement of poultry is banned in the Kelantan state where the village is located. People and birds in the area are being monitored and tested, says the story.

Singapore, which abuts Malaysia to the south, has banned imports of all poultry and poultry products from its neighbor, as has Japan. Malaysia typically exports about 130,000 chickens and 2 million eggs to Singapore daily. Malaysia's 4 million residents themselves consume 120,000 domestic chickens, 20,000 ducks, and 2 million eggs every day, according to BBC News.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement yesterday that a small team will be going to Vietnam this weekend to work with that country's Ministry of Health to assess the risk of recent avian flu cases there to public health. Arrangements are being made to send samples from the 3 Vietnamese patients who have died of the disease since the beginning of August to a laboratory in the WHO Global Network. There, analyses will be carried out to determine whether the H5N1 virus strain has mutated. The concern is that it could evolve to become transmissible between humans, which could cause an influenza pandemic.

See also:

WHO Aug 18 update on avian Influenza situation in Vietnam
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2004_08_18/en/

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